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Grand Prix Final Junior Men

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany


(19 December 2022) The Junior Men event at the Grand Prix had a mixed level. 19-year-old Nikolaj Memola from Italy won the event with 230.50 points. Being 6.4 feet (or 195 centimeter) high, he is very tall for a single skater and a late bloomer, participating at his first Junior Worlds in 2022 (7th). He improved a lot lately and was second and first this year. His coach is his mother Olga Romanova who was a Russian skater who later studied in Alexei Mishin’s academy and wrote about him. Nikolaj was born and grew up in Italy, but spent several summers in St. Petersburg in Mishin’s school.

His short program (second with 79.84 points) to the famous Prelude No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninov was clean and had a good triple Axel, followed by the required triple loop and a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, everything in good quality. His spins were good, his best element was an excellent step sequence. His components were around 7.2. He commented, “I’m happy that I did a clean skate. It’s very important to me that I did such a good skate at home, in Italy and on Olympic ice. It was fantastic to have the crowd support, who are supporting not just me but everyone. You don’t have the stress of traveling and I feel like I can also focus much better. Especially after the pandemic, when the rinks were empty, it’s amazing to see so many people on the stands.”

For his free program he had chosen music parts of “Samson and Delilah” by French composer Camille Saint-Saens and two pieces by the British rock group Muse. After an excellent double Axel he performed a good combination of triple Axel, Euler and triple Salchow. A triple flip with a small edge warning was next, followed by a good triple loop. Later he had a second triple Axel, a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, which was overturned, and a very good combination of triple Lutz and double Axel. His spins were good and his choreo step sequence was outstanding and even had one GOE of +5. His components had an average of 7.3.

He said, “I’m really satisfied, my goal was to skate clean and I did, except for a little imperfection in the combo. I’m on cloud nine. I’m on the podium, the result matters to me only for a certain amount, I’m satisfied with the work I’ve done and that’s important. I wasn’t expecting that when I started the season with the goal coming here in Torino. The first place was not my goal and then the medal came. I’m extremely happy it’s great to skate on my home ice and also on the ice of Torino 2006. So it was a mix of emotions and to have the crowd here, everything was extremely amazing. Everyone here in the senior event is amazing, I watched the competition before my competition and it was just unbelievable to see such great performances. It’s amazing to skate in a competition with them, so I don’t have a particular favorite senior skater or a junior skater. I will try to pick the best from them and try to improve myself with their quality. For example, here we have Ilia, he is a great jumper, Shoma is an artist, Daniel has such a strong mental approach to competitions, Shun has great jumps, Kao has extremely big jumps. Everyone has something to look up to.”

“I will try to participate in the Olympic Games of 2026. It’s a great honor to skate at home. In 2026 if I will be there - in Italy we have very good skaters – Rizzo, Grassl –  they are really amazing so if I have to be as good as them. I just want to be there. It will be the main goal. One of my goals is to have quads in my programs. This competition I did not feel ready with the quad because I’m not as mature as the senior skaters. I know if I try to add the quad jumps now my skating will be very bad because I don’t feel ready to add such an important jump. I work in the training with quad jumps in the beginning because I just want to start to feel ready. I have less than 50% (success rate) so it’s just not good enough yet for a program. My main goal is just to skate clean and if I will not be ready I will not attempt.”

U.S. skater Lucas Broussard of Seattle won the silver medal with 220.43 points. His main suitcase did not arrive with him at Torino airport, but at least he had his skates in his hand baggage. His suitcase arrived the next morning before the first practice. Skating to the Tangos “Adios Nonino” and “Forever Tango” by Astor Piazzolla, he was first in the short program with 81.11 points, skating flawlessly the same elements and the same levels as Memola, but his loop was better and looked easier and his components were about 7.4. The 16-year-old student of Darin Hosler commented, “I'm proud of myself. I accomplished all my goals. It wasn't perfect, the choreography could have been better. There is a lot of preparation that goes into calming my nerves. My preparation was very rocky, I had to take a week off for a hip thing that I've had before. It was very, very hard to train, but I had to do it and it paid off today.”

In the third best free skate to “The Leftovers” by Max Richter and to “Compassion” by young Russian composer Ilya Beshevli, Broussard had five good triple jumps, but the only Axel and the two Lutzes were a bit under-rotated and had negative GOEs. His spins were good and his choreo step sequence excellent (with five GOEs of +4). His components were around 7.6. He said, “I’m very happy, it’s really crazy just because I didn’t really expect to be here when I started the season with the back injury. I had to take a few months off the ice and I almost didn’t get any assignments. To get a silver medal was not something I planned on and here we are. My favorite skater here is Shoma Uno. I think, the power he gets is really impressive and he is an amazing skater too. It’s nice to know he is here and I’m here with him and it’s really cool. The lesson I will take with me, I felt like a wreck going into this one but even then I can still be successful despite a bad week of training or something aching or a really bad trip here.”

Nozomu Yoshioka from Japan won the bronze medal with 208.01 points after being only fifth in the short program. There he performed an excellent triple Axel, but overturned the triple Lutz and stepped out before the triple toe loop of his combination. He also stepped out of the triple flip and the Change Foot Sit Spin was shaky. The other elements were o.k. and his components around 6.3.

With the second best free program, he moved up on the podium. He began with a good combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, but tripled his second toe loop. Both triple Axel were good, and two of the other triples as well. His spins were soso. He explained, “Other than the second quad toe loop, I was able to do everything, so I think that was good. The Japanese senior skaters were very strong and got a high score, this gave me a good feeling.”

Shunsuke Nakamura from Kyoto in Japan came fourth with 198.64 points. His short program had four good triples, but his Change Foot Combination Spin was wobbly. In his free skate he fell on the under-rotated quad toe loop and on the (under-rotated) triple Axel, two other triples were not clean, but five were good and the first triple Axel excellent. He said, “First of all, I wanted to reduce my mistakes and work step by step on the condition of my quadruple, but it ended with this result. I learned a lot and watched the senior skaters live, and I experienced to stand on this huge stage.”

18-year-old U.S. skater Robert Yampolsky of Hackensack, New Jersey, finished fifth, earning 198.02 points. His short program to “Lord & Master” by Belgian music producer Apashe was faultless with the usual four triples, the loop being his best one. But he did not land elegantly enough to get high GOEs and his components were around 6.5. He stated, “Overall I'm fond of what I put out there tonight. Just a week ago I got sick, I was stuck in bed for a few days and didn't get nearly as much practice as I would have liked to.”

In his free program to “Age of Heroes” by Hungarian composer Balazs Havasi, he went down on the first triple Axel and on the triple loop. The second triple Axel with a double toe loop was a bit shaky, four more triples relatively clean. His spins and his choreo step sequence were good. He commented, “I think definitely illness and sickness threw me off. The next step would be to probably do a quad. That was the biggest competition in my life and it's a whole new experience to compete with so many people watching in a foreign country.”

Takeru Amine Kataise from Japan ended up sixth with 182.49 points. In the short he fell on two jumps, in the free he landed two good triple Axel, but popped two of the five other triples.